GS vs. STA: Groveling

Groveling is a powerful thing. When it’s done right, it can demonstrate that a hero or heroine has truly changed, that they understand the flaws of their past behavior and are ready to be not so much of an asshat. Sometimes, depending on the plot, the happy ending rests on the strength of the groveling scene.

Groveling in a romance is something we’ve talked about before – particularly in the big behemoth thread from a few years ago on rape in romance. There’s some powerful juju in hearing someone say, “I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.” Whether it’s mistaken identity or stupidly large misunderstandings, or misunderstanding the heroine when she said she wasn’t a prostitute (“I thought you said, ‘I look hot in a suit!’”), the groveling and asking for forgiveness can do a lot in the hands of a skilled writer to strengthen a character, and establish the possibility for a true happy ending.

Insufficient groveling can be problematic – this was the basis of my problem with Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan when I read it. And sometimes the groveling is absent altogether. I received this email from a reader recently:

I just read a craptastic book by Diana Palmer involving an alpha male that
I found, okay, okay, bought >: ( and am so angry!

So the hero (psshhh) is a cowboy/millionaire who is the object of a girl’s
crush and basically treats the girl like crap through the whole book and I
keep reading and reading and finish the book and felt completely ripped off!
I was contemplating why I hated it so much and I realize that there was no
grovel scene! The only way I allow the hero to act like an ass is because I
am waiting for the wonderful great part where he makes it up to me, um . . .
I mean her, by the fantastic grovel/apology/gesture/change he willing to
make because of luurve. I know that I’m not the only reader who loves this
cathartic part of the book and would love a suggestion of some books that
have great groveling. I need to heal and take this awful taste of
shenanegans out of my mouth!

It occurred to me that we’ve never done a list of books that really satisfy those readers who enjoy the gesture or groveling of a formerly-asshatted hero. What books rocked your socks in terms of the grovel – and which books didn’t have nearly enough?


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    quizzabella says:

    My favourite grovel scene is a bit unusual in that it’s the heroine doing the grovelling.  In Jilly Cooper’s Polo, Perdita is a class A bitch, stomping all over everyone’s feelings, especially the lovable Luke, a fellow Polo player who is in love with her.  At the end she realises how horrible she’s been, makes a big sacrifice for him and admits her feelings and apologizes for her past actions.  I found it believable and sweet and redeemed the heroine in my eyes where for a lot of the book I had quite wanted to slap her.

  2. 2
    Sycorax says:

    Faro’s Daughter, by Georgette Heyer has some rather nice grovelling, though I think it could do with a little more… everything really. 

    Mary Balogh’s Devil’s Web, however, did not have nearly enough grovelling. The hero, who had daddy issues, behaved like a bastard throughout the book and made both of them miserable for 300 or so pages. The make up scene goes for about two pages. I finished the book feeling really miserable, not even remotely convinced that they were going to work out.

  3. 3
    Julianna says:

    I think Darcy does a good, satisfying grovel in Pride & Prejudice.  I’m thinking about Rochester, and trying to decide if his final humbling comes out to a grovel, but I’m deciding not.

  4. 4
    HeatherK says:

    Unfortunately, most of Diana Palmer’s books lack a sufficient grovel scene, yet I keep buying the things and devouring them like they’re the last bit of chocolate placed in front of a chocaholic. She was my intro to the romance genre, and I’ve stuck with her through the years. But at least I know what I’m getting into going in with her. My reading experiences in the genre have also spread far and wide from that original book.

    I’ll be watching this thread to make a list of books containing a good grovel scene because it would be nice to read some done right. Perhaps I should use my husband as an example when next writing, because he does a damned good grovel…and no, I won’t go into why he had to grovel.

  5. 5
    Natasha R says:

    Kiss an Angel – Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Honestly I can’t remember if there was a groveling scene per se in the book between the leads. But the reader gets to see the groveling process and it’s just so darn sweet!

    Double Standards – Judith McNaught – I don’t remember much of this book (LOL!) But I remember the ending! Especially the bribing scene. Got a few tears in my eyes and became an unforgettable scene in my mind.

    I can’t think of any other “great” groveling scenes at the moment

  6. 6
    Patty H. says:

    Just finished La Nora’s latest, Bed of Roses.  I love the hero but he has commitment issues.  He pulls away from the woman he loves and nearly blows it.  The groveling is great because he is shut out by the heroine’s three girlfriends. 
    That woman writes relationships like nobody else.  I love the dynamic between the guy pals and gal pals as much as the romance and hot sex.  I want to reread it right now…

  7. 7

    Gah!  I can’t remember the name of the romance from the 80’s (HaBO time?) but it was a historical.  The hero’s the heroine’s father’s enemy.  He kidnaps her, rapes her, falls in love, she gets away, he follows her to a leprosarium(!) even though he has a horror of leprosy because it killed his mama (WTFBBQ?!) and when he gets there he gets down on the ground, literally groveling, and washes the heroine’s feet amidst all the lepers.

    Now, that’s what I’m talking about!!!

    Oh, and both leave the leprosarium without falling prey to Hansen’s Disease, which is much more difficult to catch than people think, but that’s a different issue.

  8. 8

    Oh yeah, one more:  I think it was an early Balogh where the hero slaps the heroine and is horrified, not because he slapped her as much as by his losing control. And that’s what ticks her off.  He’s not horrified because he struck a lady—he thinks she’s his ward’s mistress—but because it’s all about him.

    At the end, she reminds him of how badly he treated her in that moment and to make amends he jumps off the dock into the bay, fully clothed, to embarrass himself.  Sounds kind of dumb but in the context of appropriate groveling it worked.

  9. 9

    Oh yeah—one more and then I promise I’m going to STFU.  I hate Rosemary Rogers’ “heroes” ‘cause they never grovel enough, or at all.  Worst offender was the guy in The Insiders.  I wanted to castrate him with a chain saw.

    I’m done now.  Really.

  10. 10
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Lol, keep going, Darlene, you’re cracking me up.

    I was going to say Darcy too, because I just finished listening to the audiobook, and then had to come in from the car and read the end of the book again, because I just love it. (Mind you, I’ve read and listened to the book, and watched the movie, untold times.) So it’s fresh in my mind. ;)

    One of Nora’s Mackade books stick out, in that the hero and heroine had a bet, and she ended up having to dress up like a tart and go into a bar where all his friends were. Then he had to grovel.

  11. 11

    Without a good grovel scene, Elizabeth Lowell’s “To The Ends Of The Earth” would have been a resounding wallbanger. With it, it’s a keeper. The hero doesn’t make up for his bad behavior all at once, and he doesn’t expect anything for what he does. I like that. I want a hero who makes amends and doesn’t expect anything in return, though he can hope.

    Also – how about the heroine who should grovel? I can’t think of a good heroine grovel scene, but sometimes she really should. How about all those secret baby books, where very often she has absolutely no right and no good reason for keeping the child from its father?

  12. 12
    Brooks*belle says:

    I just finished reading The Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas and Sebastian St. Vincent does some excellent groveling.  Had to apologize to his former best friend for kidnapping his fiance, had to admit he wanted Evie, and agreed to celibacy to earn her trust—and then he didn’t whine when he lost the bet!  Delicious groveling!

    As to heroine groveling?  Yes—I think we could use more of it.  For instance, I really really really needed Zenia to grovel in The Dream Hunter.  As it is, I still want to beat her senseless, send her back to the desert, and get Lord Winter a new spine.

  13. 13
    Sarah W says:

    A Duke of her Own by Eloisa James has a nice grovelling scene by Villiers—it’s short, but he did a lot of self-imposed penance beforehand. 

    He’s such a catalytic hero-despite-himself through most of the series, it was wonderful to see him royally screw up with a woman (heaven forfend), admit he was wrong and have to scramble to make amends . . . all without changing his basic Villier-ness.

    And while I agree that Rochester didn’t grovel,  I do think he was adequately punished . . .

  14. 14

    Judith McNaught’s “Perfect” and “Paradise”.  Both times the males plow over the heroine then have to make it up to her to win her back.  Great books and wonderful author.


  15. 15
    Barb says:

    Sarah’s Child by Linda Howard would be unbearable without the hero’s groveling at the end.  He has treated her like crap for the length of her pregnancy (his kid, no less!!) but finally comes to his senses.  My thoughts on Elizabeth Lowell—I often felt that her category romance heroes never groveled anywhere near enough.  I always wanted those books to end with the heroine saying

    Sorry dude, too little too late


  16. 16
    Kate Jones says:

    I don’t have as much of a problem with a bad (or lack of) grovel as I do with the fact that some authors put them right at the end of the book.  I’m with Natasha R—Double Standards is a great grovel scene.  But then the books just over.  There hasn’t been time to see their HEA, or to convince yourself that he even meant what he said.

    The awesome thing about books like The Devil in Winter is that he grovels like, halfway through the book, and we get to see the relationship evolve from there.

  17. 17
    M E 2 says:

    Sarah’s Child by Linda Howard would be unbearable without the hero’s groveling at the end.

    :::SNORT:::  IMNSHO, SARAH’S CHILD is unbearable period.  There is NOTHING hero-like about Rome (the prick) Matthews whatsoever.

  18. 18
    Brooks*belle says:

    @ Kate Jones

    You are SO right on about the importance of the timing of the grovel.  If it’s too late in the book, I just don’t buy his (or her) sincerity.  I need to SEE the character change and grow after the grovel in order to buy into the story.

  19. 19
    liz m says:

    I’m going to go with Edith Layton’s The Fire Flower. I mean, first he talks her into being his mistress, then he marries someone else but tries to keep her on the side – I’m rooting for her to leave him for his best friend – but by then end of his OMG I’m such a tool moment I was like awww, ok, take him back.

  20. 20
    TracyS says:

    I wanted to castrate him with a chain saw

    Now THAT is not a hero I want to read about!

    That is quiet the word picture. I’m going to have to remember that the next time I get really mad at someone~to say it; not actually do it! ;)

  21. 21
    MM says:

    Sarah’s Child emotional grovel at the end. Love the book and the slow lead to that groveling scene.

  22. 22
    JamiSings says:

    Hm – I can’t think of any. Maybe it’s because groveling scenes just don’t do it for me. I’ve had too many people grovel to me IRL then turn around and start the same behavior over again. So I can’t suspend my disbelief enough.

  23. 23
    Nadia says:

    Oh, SEP gives great grovel, LOL.  “Kiss and Angel” is prime example, but “Heaven, Texas” is pretty good as well.

    Linda Howard could pump up her grovel scenes.  I recently re-read the Blair Mallory books and was not satisfied with his contrition for a) dumping her cold in the first place, and b) being completely disrespectful of her in the middle of the second book.  He does apologize, but it just wasn’t enough for me. 

    The end of Tara Janzen’s “Crazy Love” (Dylan and Skeeter’s book) is one of my all time favorites, although it’s not an explicit grovel.  It’s all about the way she describes the ring he bought and what it means.  Sigh.

  24. 24
    Carin says:

    I don’t have a favorite… I think Susan Elizabeth Phillips does them pretty well.  I agree that I like the timing to be more toward the middle as opposed to the last page.  I want to SEE the change, not just hear about it. 

    Question:  in the title of this post “GS vs. STA”  What does that mean?

  25. 25
    PRGAl says:

    An oldie, but goodie Regency from the 90’s:  Mary Brendan’s Beloved Avenger.  Alpha male hero seeks revenge on the heroine’s family whom he has bankrupted.  Hero wants to marry the heroine in exchange for forgiving the family debts, but settles for her acting as a companion to his sister-in-law.  The pivotal plot moment in the book is a forced seduction scene which results in pregnancy.  It’s a long and tortured story with a stubborn and immature heroine, but eventually they live HEA.  Hero spends at least half the book searching for the runaway heroine, and even allows her brother (who has returned from war to find his sister missing) to beat him up at one point after he confesses to the rape.  You see this mega-rich alpha male bent on revenge dissolve into a wiser man, full of regrets for his actions which ultimately bring him lots of pain.  Mary Brendan has gone on to write some pretty good stuff, but I think Beloved Avenger was her best book.

  26. 26
    Elyssa Papa says:

    Susan Elizabeth Phillips is a master at the grovel. I particularly love the ones in Natural Born Charmer and Dream a Little Dream. I think Sherry Thomas does very good grovels, too. Who can forget Gina’s entrance when Cam has dinner in NYC in Private Arrangements? And Lisa Kleypas is another one—-when her male characters mess up (and they usually do big time), they make up for it.

  27. 27
    Laurel says:

    Bill the Vampire does a pretty good grovel in the Sookie Stackhouse books. Most notably the last one. Short and simple on the words but big on the gestures. Mmm, mmm.

  28. 28
    Kiersten says:

    My immediate first thought was Judith McNaught’s Almost Heaven. I know it’s been mentioned by The Bitchery before for other wonderment reasons, but Ian’s long road to a grovel breaks my heart every time. First, the heroine (can’t remember her name) saves (or thinks she saves) his bacon in the House of Lords by acting like a dimwit (this is her grovelling) then she disappears, and when he finally, finally, gets over their baggage, he goes to the one place he loves the most (a cottage in Scotland, natch) – and finds her waiting there for him. Commence the grovelling. So tender, so funny, so heartbreakingly wonderful.

    That book is so glorious, I can remember quotes from it still and I haven’t read it in at least 10 years.

    Double Standards, Paradise, and Perfect are other great McNaught’s also w/the grovelling, but she usually has grovelling b/c there’s always a Big Misunderstanding that wrenches her h/h painfully apart. I prefer her historicals though.

    Also? Kingdom of Heaven. Sigh. That woman writes great books.

  29. 29
    Darcy Burke says:

    Judith McNaught – Almost Heaven. Both hero and heroine do some awesome groveling. The scene where the hero and his crotchety grandfather (who hero hated and only made up with so he could grovel to the heroine) enter the ballroom…sigh. Then it’s her turn. After they marry, she’s a total asshat and leaves him, which gets him charged with her disappearance. She shows up in court and completely embarrasses herself to save his ass. But he’s still not happy! So she retreats and eventually he goes to find her and there’s mutual groveling. That’s my fave McNaught book.

    The power of the grovel is a beautiful thing.

  30. 30
    Manon Clarke says:

    By far the BEST at this is Judith McNaught. I see her name pops up in the comments A LOT. I think no one grovelled better than Royce Westmoreland and his descendant, Clayton Westmoreland. Clayton was by far the biggest asshat I’ve EVER read in my life and he is my all time favorite Hero. And I don’t like Alpha Males AT ALL… unless they’re Judith’s….

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top